France may have ended England Women’s perfect record at Twickenham back in the Six Nations, but there was to be no repeat performance with the Red Roses running out 40-20 winners on Saturday.
With Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 only 10 months away, the match was an important step in both team’s preparations for the showpiece event in the French capital Paris.
It was England’s first Test of November, while France arrived at Twickenham having split a two-Test series with Canada the previous week, winning the first 27-19 but losing the second 11-6 after a last minute try by Julianne Zussman.
The hosts, though, started brightly and nearly opened the scoring in the second minute, only for Ruth Laybourn’s foot to be deemed to be in touch before she grounded the ball. They did cross the French line in the 15th minute when full back Kay Wilson finished off a good passing move, but the visitors replied with a Sandrine Agricole penalty.
Captain Katy McLean raced through a spot in the defence for England’s second before Maggie Alphonsi announced her return to the international scene after 20 months out injured with a typical charge through tacklers over the line. Claire Allan added a fourth to ensure England went in leading 26-6 at the break with another Agricole penalty all that France could muster.
The lead quickly grew to 33-6 with Wilson’s second try of the match, but centre Marion Lievre intercepted a loose pass to hit back for France. Laybourn did finally get her try at Twickenham by Lievre had the final say with her second of the day.
“We’re really pleased to get the victory, if you had offered me a 40-20 win before the game I would have taken it,” admitted coach Gary Street. “We were particularly pleased with our first half performance, we perhaps eased off a little in the second half but we’ll address that in training this week.”
Street has rung the changes for the match with Canada at the Twickenham Stoop on Wednesday when the visitors will be looking for a third successive win over England after two victories in the Women’s Nations Cup back in August.
The two sides were drawn together in Pool A for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 last month and so both will eager to secure a confidence-boosting victory over their rivals.
“Against France we executed our game plan well, and we took our opportunities. We played with intent and put on the kind of game we wanted to in front of a big crowd at Twickenham, and we want to do more of the same on Wednesday,” admitted Street.
“This time around, however, we must put in an 80-minute performance as that is not something we did on Saturday.
“This is definitely going to be an exciting fixture. After their win over France they’ll be feeling confident. They’ve also had some rest so will be feeling fresh whilst also wanting to prove a point to us ahead of the WRWC.
“However, their win over us in the Nations Cup is huge motivation for us. I have certainly got players chomping at the bit eager to reverse those results but also at the same time put their hands up for selection for the World Cup training squad which will be announced later this month.”